Slowing Down and Thriving This Advent

Photo by: Laura Nyhuis on Unsplash


“Resist no thought. Retain no thought. React to no thought. Return ever so gently to the sacred word.”

—Brian Russell, PhD, Centering Prayer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yet, many of us (myself included) feel frenzied, hassled, and not as joyful as we hoped. I find myself running from social obligation to social obligation, preparing for family gatherings, trying to locate gifts (yes, shortages are real!), and rushing my family to and from church as I prepare for the next celebration. I’ve been thinking about how busy we are, especially during the holiday season, and about the increasing pace of change. The rapid changes of this world have had a whiplash effect on my mental and emotional health. Looking back at the pandemic lock down has allowed me to reflect on the slower pace of life and the wisdom it provides on what matters most.

Taking a Moment to Slow Down

Pausing to reflect and check-in with oneself is part of thriving. It’s easy to get pulled into work and social obligations at this time. However, these obligations can pull us away from ourselves and, more importantly, from God. Unless we slow it down, we become unaware of our own thoughts and emotions, and often miss what God’s gentle voice is saying to us. Being intentional about slowing it down and refocusing is important for our wellbeing.

Self-Awareness Practices

1. Centering Prayer

Last month, I was fortunate to have a conversation with Dr. Brian Russell, founder of Deep Dive Spirituality. His most recent book, Centering Prayer is one that I highly recommend reading. A form of Christian meditation, centering prayer helps us sit in silence and tune into God’s love. Moreover, it helps us become aware of what matters to us, what we value, and which direction to take our lives.

2. Praying as You Go

I have also really enjoyed the Pray as You Go App, particularly during a run or walk. Listening to the scripture passages, reflecting, breathing, and finding gratitude as I move through my neighborhood have been my form of embodied or moving meditation.

3. Practicing Meditation

Another app that is very aligned with thriving and I have found most helpful for mindfulness practices is the Healthy Minds Program App, created by Dr. Richard Davidson and his team at the Center for Healthy Minds. The science behind the techniques in this app shows that our brains can become more focused and our emotions more positive if we take some quiet time to slow down and reflect.

4. Reading Devotions

If you prefer meditation in the form of reading, the Max De Pree Center at Fuller Seminary offers an Advent devotional guide for a time of reflection and exploration as we approach Christmas.

Thriving through Rest, Reflection, and Peace

Remember, self-awareness is an element of thriving. Not only do we need to understand our feelings, but we must also remind ourselves of what matters most to us and brings us a deep sense of joy in order to determine where we are heading with our lives and with our communities. This time of the year, we are especially aware of the advent of God—of God breaking into this world as Jesus Christ. The child born thousands of years ago came so that we might have abundant life. At the Thrive Center, we emphasize that an abundant life makes space for rest, reflection, and peace. This Advent make a daily practice of slowing down and becoming aware—and not just of your holiday to-do list! Be aware of God’s presence with you, of who you are, and of how you are feeling in these busy days.

I wish you peace that passes all understanding this holiday season.

About the Author

Pamela Ebstyne King

Pamela Ebstyne King

Pamela Ebstyne King, PhD, is the Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science at the School of Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy in Fuller Theological Seminary. Her primary academic interests are applied research at the intersection of human thriving and spiritual development. Dr. King's work combines theology, empirical research, and community engagement to further understand what contexts and settings enable all people to thrive.

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